Jackson Browne has been a vocal and eloquent advocate of social justice for over three decades. He has spoken out against US foreign policy, particularly as it applies to Central America, and his music has affected change through the increased social awareness of his large fan base, fans who are also voters.
Clyde Jackson Browne was born on October 9, 1948 in Heidelberg, Germany to
Jack Browne and Beatrice Amanda Dahl. Jackson's father was also a musician, a
talent he inherited from his own father. Jack once performed with French jazz
guitarist Django Reinhardt, and recorded with both Mahalia Jackson and Jack
Teagarden. His father's love of Dixieland jazz and his jam sessions were most likely
Jackson's earliest musical influence. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was
three years old, and by the time he was a teenager, Browne had developed an interest
in folk music. He began playing guitar and writing songs, which he sang at local folk
clubs. In early 1966 Jackson Browne joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for a brief
time, performing at The Golden Bear where they opened for The Lovin' Spoonful.
The band later recorded a number of Jackson's songs including "These Days,"
"Melissa" and "Holding", and "Shadow Dream Song". Among his early songs,
"These Days" and "Shadow Dream Song" were the strongest showcases that Jackson
was musically gifted far beyond his years. "Shadow Dream Song" was recorded by
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom Rush, Nico, Steve Noonan, and Gregg Allman.
Ironically, Jackson never released a version of it himself. He spent part of 1967 and
1968 in Greenwich Village, New York, where he backed Tim Buckley and German
singer Nico at Andy Warhol's club, The Dom.X was one of the first recording artists signed to.
By late the 1960s and early 1970s Jackson Browne had built up a reputation as a songwriter. His songs were now being recorded by The Byrds, Bonnie Raitt, Linda
Ronstadt, the Eagles, and many others. Jackson had yet to release an album. David
Geffen sent Jackson on tour with Laura Nyro and began making plans to start his
own record label, where Jackson's first album could be released. Geffen founded
Asylum Records and Jackson started recording his debut album in 1971.
He had been recording since 1971, beginning with the then fledgling David Geffen's then fledgling Asylum recording company. Before this, his music was recorded by other, more established artists, including The Eagles ( Take It Easy ? )
Lives in the Balance was released amid the controversy over the possibility of
American intervention in Latin America, and showcased Browne's beliefs and
feelings towards the Reagan presidency
By now he had become inextricably involved in a number of social causes and was using his music and his celebrity to further those causes. He had co-founded (with Graham Nash, John Hall and Bonnie Raitt) MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) and Alliance For Survival, as well as the No Nukes concerts. In 1984 he went to Nicaragua for the first of many times and began exposing Reagan's Contragate policy, both through song (Lives In The Balance) and speeches. In 1986 he participated in the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour and did a series of benefit concerts for The Christic Institute, which eventually broke the story of the Iran-Contra scandal
" Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes
you feel a thought." (Edgar Yipsel, 1898 - 1981)
Prior to this album, Jackson Browne's music had been, for the most part, deeply personal and introspective, relating mainly to his life and family situation.
Why did the United States interfere in the internal politics of Central America in the 1970's and 80's?
It was during this period that the Carter and ( later ) Reagan administrations altered the direction of US foreign policy, as it applied to the central American region.
The US has a long history of involvement with Latin America, revealing a disturbing pattern whereby whenever a Latin American government tries to alleviate the plight of its poor (the vast majority of Latin American's today still live in poverty), the US does its best to remove the government (typically through a military coup). The countries are then invariably ruled by some form of repressive dictatorship more acceptable to US interests.
The standard excuse for the US's actions in Latin America throughout the 50s - 80s was Cold War concerns, however the fact remains that the US's actions over the past 30 years have left Latin America in a poor state, where many of the countries' peoples work as effective slaves to the West, often forced by the IMF / World Bank to do so in order to repay ever increasing debts.
In 1979, the pro-US and US-backed dictatorship of Somoza was overthrown and a new government calling itself the 'Sandinistas' was formed. The Sandinistas made dramatic improvements in nutrition, health care (reducing infant mortality to a third of the rate previously) and literacy (increasing literacy from 25% to 80%).
loaded with ideological ammunition. the visceral genuis of an artist that can marry contemporary political concepts to marvelous music